Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 December 6

Jupiter Rotation Movie from Pic du Midi
Image Credit & Copyright: S2P / IMCCE / OPM / JL Dauvergne et al.

Explanation: Observe the graceful twirl of the Solar System's largest planet. Many interesting features of Jupiter's enigmatic atmosphere, including dark bands and light zones, can be followed in detail. A careful inspection will reveal that central clouds rotate slightly faster than clouds toward the poles. The famous Great Red Spot is visible at first but soon rotates out of view, only to return near the movie's end. Other smaller storm systems ocassionally appear. As large as Jupiter is, it rotates in only 10 hours. Our small Earth, by comparison, takes 24 hours to complete a spin cycle. The above high-resolution time-lapse movie was captured over the past year by the one-meter Telescope at the Pic du Midi Observatory in the French Pyrenees. Since hydrogen and helium gas are colorless, and those elements compose most of Jupiter's expansive atmosphere, what trace elements create the observed colors of Jupiter's clouds remains unknown.

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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